Are you running on coffee?

For those who can’t live without their brew, a primer on how to do it right.
An average person's daily caffeine intake should not exceed 200mg - that's about two cups of coffee a day, say experts.(Shutterstock)
An average person's daily caffeine intake should not exceed 200mg - that's about two cups of coffee a day, say experts.(Shutterstock)
Published on Sep 21, 2019 10:39 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByAnesha George & Shweta Kushe

If you’re a coffee drinker, there’s a reason you find it hard to really wake up without your first dose. The caffeine in coffee acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system, making you feel more alert. On the plus side, it helps combat drowsiness and fatigue. On the minus, it’s extremely addictive, making it difficult to abandon, control intake—or truly wake up without it. Here’s a look at what you can do to make your coffee intake healthier

How much is too much?

“Up to 200 mg of caffeine or two cups of coffee a day is absolutely safe,” says nutritionist Shikha Gupta. “However, one must remember to take into account the caffeine intake from other drinks, like tea, colas and energy beverages.”

Is it healthy?

Coffee has no macronutrients and hence no major health benefits. “However, it is high on potassium and has traces of sodium,” says dietician Zamrud Patel. The good news is it doesn’t really have any calories — except from the added milk, creamer and sugar.

Some chug mugs of coffee to help themselves lose weight. “This is unhealthy weight loss,” warns Gupta. “Caffeine is an appetite suppressant and excessive consumption leads to muscle loss, instead of the fat breakdown that most people are looking for. In the long term, this unhealthy muscle loss will affect overall health.”

The real downside

Studies suggest that high coffee consumption over a prolonged period can cause acidity, digestive issues, raise anxiety levels, and cause insomnia. There is a high individual variability when it comes to tolerance to coffee. “Coffee’s side effects are unpredictable and can be difficult to trace. If you are below 25 or above 40, it is best to avoid coffee and instead opt for decaf or tea,” says dietician Niyati Likhite.

You’re overdoing it if…

You suffer from symptoms like acid reflux, heartburn, and general stomach discomfort.

“If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cysts, you should steer clear of caffeine because it stimulates oestrogen production,” says Gupta.

It can also contribute to migraine frequency and in general can aggravate headaches.

Is decaf really better?

Developed in the early 1900s by Ludwig Roselius, decaf or decaffeinated coffee is essentially when the bean is treated in such a way that you end up with 8 mg to 14 mg of caffeine per cup of coffee instead of about 95 mg.

If you’re trying to kick the coffee habit, it’s a good first step, sort of like the nicotine patch for smokers. It’s also a good option if you’re trying to reduce caffeine intake. As long as what you’re buying is really decaf.

If you’re buying boxed or instant decaffeinated coffee, make sure the caffeine content is between 1% and 4%. Any coffee with a caffeine content of more than 4% is not really decaf, doctors say.

If even 1% to 4% caffeine is still causing you acidity or other symptoms, opt for herbal coffee — a mix of herbs, nuts and a bit of coffee bean. You get a taste, aroma and colour very similar to coffee. Honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

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